GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Book Review: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen | I Smell Sheep

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Book Review: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

We Have Always Been Here
by Lena Nguyen
July 6, 2021
368 pages
Publisher: DAW
Genre: crime, mystery, science fiction, genetic engineering
This psychological sci-fi thriller from a debut author follows one doctor who must discover the source of her crew's madness... or risk succumbing to it herself.

Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship—all specialists in their own fields—as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.
Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes—and that’s when things begin to fall apart. Park’s patients are falling prey to waking nightmares of helpless, tongueless insanity. The androids are behaving strangely. There are no windows aboard the ship. Paranoia is closing in, and soon Park is forced to confront the fact that nothing—neither her crew, nor their mission, nor the mysterious Eos itself—is as it seems.

A psychological thriller in a sci-fi Alien-like setting. This book had several things going for it and some that weren't. Here are my thoughts on both:

What I liked
The dreary, dark atmosphere of the ship and the unknown planet it had landed on were both described very well. As the story progressed and several characters fell prey to a nightmare-inducing sickness that had them behaving irrationally, it only added to the suspense.

The treatment of androids and the fear of an uprising revealed an ugly aspect of humanity. Neither do we like something that's too unlike us, nor do we forgive things for being too similar to ourselves! While this trope is nothing new, it made for interesting reading.

What I Didn't like
Three timelines run simultaneously throughout the telling of this story. While they do lead to good reveals, two of them also detracted from the one that was describing the present.

I struggled to care about the protagonist. She's not described as an introvert but as a misanthrope. How such a person could go on to become a psychologist is beyond me. Not only should she be unable to get a degree in the subject, but her personality would also be a hindrance when she starts practicing. As it was, the whole concept of this book was based on this quirk of hers. So, I dunno how to take that.

Captain Sagara, with his secretive bossy ways, and Fullbreech, made for far more likable characters than the lead. However, the author's insistent way of describing Fullbreech's boy-next-door charm and how weird Sagara was did clue me in about their secret motivations.

Some repetitive parts could have been cut out during editing. Park's explanation of what was happening to Sagara comes to mind as an example.

If you like thrillers heavy on psychology with a smattering of sci-fi, then this is the book for you.

3 sheep.

Reviewer: Mindu Reads
Most of my go-to series are 3 starrers
*No rating - wasn't my genre/dnf'd so rating it would be unfair
1 sheep - won't be picking up another book in a series  again
2 sheep - average read with overused tropes and cliches. Will give the author another try/only continuing because of OCD, so must finish a series
2.5 sheep - liked the book but was put off because it was overly long/illtreatment of a character the author had me invest in and so on.
3 sheep - enjoyed the book but have reservations because I expected to be wowed and wasn't
4 sheep - was unputdownable
5 sheep - formed an emotional connection, will read the heck outta this series

About the Author:
The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Lena Nguyen lives with her partner in the alien desert of Arizona. She received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University, where she also taught courses in English literature, composition, creative writing, cultural studies, superheroes, and zombies. Her science fiction and fantasy have won several accolades, and she was a Writers of the Future finalist. When not writing traditional fiction, Lena is steeped in the world of game development and is hard at work on her next choice-based game. We Have Always Been Here (DAW, Penguin Random House) is her debut novel.

1 comment: